Video game tie-ins have existed for almost as long as the medium itself. If there’s a successful movie series or franchise, the chances are that there will have been a video game made of it to cynically cash in on the name.
Despite having a reputation for being mostly terrible, due to the rushed development time it takes to capitalize on a film’s release, these tie-ins still had major selling power. It’s easy to see why, considering the crossover appeal of guns, superpowers and explosions. However, sometimes a game is made that begs the question “just who is this meant to appeal to?”
Here’s our list of the 13 Weirdest Video Games Based On Movies.
13. Reservoir Dogs (2006, PC/PlayStation 2/Xbox)
Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 crime thriller is a tightly-scripted, dialogue heavy masterpiece. We may never know why the decision to release a game based on the movie was made in 2006. The game promised to fill in the “gaps” of the movie, like how Mr. Blonde got the kidnapped cop back to the warehouse and where Mr. Pink stashed the diamonds.
What it actually amounted to was a boring shooting/driving game, which poorly retold the events of the film with unconvincing fan fiction additions. Only Michael Madsen signed off on his likeness and voice being in the game, so the rest of the cast were made up of generic characters that barely looked or sounded like movie cast, leading to an amateurish feel to it all. It garnered mediocre reviews and was banned by Australia and New Zealand for its “objectionable” violence and content.
It was a bad idea from the ground up, as actually seeing and playing through what happened on the botched jewelry heist turns out to be as much fun as being tied to a chair and tortured by a dancing Michael Madsen.
12. Murder, She Wrote/ Murder, She Wrote 2: Return to Cabot Cove ( 2009/2012, PC/Mac/iOS)
It’s tough to imagine the thought process behind this one. Who in their right mind takes a property that ended 13 years prior, and even then had an audience mostly of pensioners, and makes a video game out of it? Clearly some kind of twisted genius, because the game must have done well enough to warrant a sequel.
Both games are point and click mystery solvers. Players must guide a terrifying virtual Angela Lansbury and find clues around Cabot Cove to solve some of the town’s regular-as-clockwork murder mysteries. The game requires you to shuffle around town questioning people, solving puzzles and making notes in your notebook. There are some amazing point and click adventures out there, but these aren’t them. They feature stilted dialogue, easy challenges and a lack of variety. The unsettling, dead-eyed virtual Jessica Fletcher also warrants another mention. Solving all the murders in the world will not shake that particular horror.
11. White Men Can’t Jump (1995, Atari Jaguar)
Loosely based on the 1992 comedy starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, White Men Can’t Jump the video game appeared on Atari’s short-lived Jaguar console.
Even for the time, the graphics and animation were awful and you had to put up with repetitive phrases and soundbites like “Nothing but net!” and “Freakdom!” forcing their way into your eyes and ears every few seconds. The game boasted sloppy controls, frustrating gameplay and a camera that sullenly refused to be helpful. All of this added up to it being considered one of the worst games in the Jaguar library, where the competition for that particular title is fierce. To add insult to injury, you couldn’t even play as Harrelson or Snipes, with your choice limited to teams with the most ’90s names possible like the “Psyko Squad” or the “Dis Masters”.
10. Mean Girls (2009, Nintendo DS)
In 2008, Paramount Pictures announced that they were down with the kids, yo, and went about turning some of their back catalogue into video games. They started with turning three titles into thumb twiddlers – Mean Girls, Clueless and Pretty in Pink. All three are worthy of a space on the list, but Mean Girls takes the cake with the sheer weirdness surrounding it.
Mean Girls DS was basically a Puzzle Quest rip-off that required the player to choose and combine jewels, shoes and lipstick. Chain enough combinations together and you could spread rumors, play pranks or deliver put-downs around North Shore High. The game was quietly released in Europe, but a planned North American version was canceled shortly before release. Interestingly, the box art featured Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried, but not lead star Lindsay Lohan. Whilst no official reason has been given for the lack of Lohan, it’s probable that her headline-grabbing tabloid shenanigans at the time wouldn’t have been given the Nintendo Seal of Quality.
9. Around the World in 80 Days (2004, Game Boy Advance)
Do you remember Disney’s 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days starring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan? No? Join the incomprehensibly massive queue of people that don’t. The retelling of Jules Verne’s classic novel was a box office bomb, losing over $70 million ($90 million adjusted for inflation) and became one of the costliest flops of all time.
Part of the movie’s big marketing campaign was a tie-in video game for the GBA, developed by Saffire, a studio best known for other shoddy Game Boy movie tie-ins and the Nintendo 64 port of the first Rainbow Six. Like the stupid movie, the focus was on Passepartout instead of Phileas Fogg and instead of racing around the globe and having whimsical adventures, the player had to punch and kick their way across various locales. Also like the movie, it was met with critical disdain and was forgotten about almost as soon as it was released.
8. Toys (1993, Sega Genesis/ Super NES)
Barry Levinson’s Toys has to be one of the strangest mainstream films going. Released in 1992 and starring Robin Williams, Joan Cusack and Michael Gambon, Toys proved too weird for audiences and critics alike. It currently has a 26% “Rotten” ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.
It has to be said that they’d make anything with a face and a name into a video game in the early ’90s. However, even taking that into account, the surreal Toys is a strange choice to adapt. The game focuses on the latter part of the film where Robin Williams’ Leslie Zevo and friends have a toy war against his father’s war machines. You play as Leslie and have to repel tanks and helicopters with wind-up ducks and a peanut gun, all the while trying to destroy security cameras. The game was both ridiculously hard and punishingly monotonous.
7. The Princess Bride Game (2008, PC/Mac/Linux)
Who doesn’t love Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride? Judging by the Rotten Tomatoes 97% “Fresh” rating, a tiny percentage of soulless, bitter husks calling themselves critics. The property doesn’t exactly scream for a video game adaptation, but a case could be made for some of the excellent swordfighting action. Perhaps you could play as Inigo Montoya, slashing your way across the land to finally avenge your father?
Nope. Worldwide Biggies released a downloadable Princess Bride game in 2008 that didn’t have any sword fights whatsoever. Instead it chose the mini game route, containing a potion making level, a platformer, a trivia game and “exciting” time management and inventory assembly levels. The game featured the voices of both Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn, but failed to gain any real interest and faded away with barely any trace. Completely conceivable.
6. Little Nicky (2000, Game Boy Color)
In addition to being a good handheld with an expansive library, the Game Boy Color also became a dumping ground for cheap cash-ins. Case in point, Little Nicky – a GBC exclusive based on the flop of the same name starring Adam Sandler.
Players took the role of Nicky, the third son of Satan, as he strives to stop his brothers from taking over Earth. Nicky must run and jump his way across levels in both Hell and on Earth and complete mini games related to the film. It was a mediocre platformer that managed to garner a “T for Teen” rating thanks to its inclusion of peeping toms, suggestive dialogue, and urinating enemies. Quite a feat for a Game Boy game. Despite featuring a gameplay mechanic where you could summon Ozzy Osbourne, the game still managed to receive a mixed reaction from critics.
5. The Sum of All Fears (2002, PC/GameCube)
The Tom Clancy name is well-known to gamers. Clancy himself co-founded Red Storm Entertainment to make video games based on his various properties, and first became known as a video game brand thanks to the Rainbow Six series. Red Storm has since been swallowed by Ubisoft, who still use the Tom Clancy name today, most recently with The Division. The Sum of All Fears movie was released in 2002 and starred Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
After the success of the Rainbow Six, the decision to make a tie-in video game was made. The trouble is, there isn’t much to actually adapt, considering the film is mostly about political intrigue and terrorism. That didn’t stop Red Storm, however, who created a side story that had the player and a team of operatives rescue hostages and kill the people behind the film’s big sequence where Baltimore is destroyed by a nuclear bomb. It was basically a reskinned Rainbow Six with none of the tactical play gamers liked. The game received the same kind of enthusiastic critical reaction the film got- that is to say it didn’t get one at all.
4. The Office (2007, PC)
Sitcoms and video games seem incompatible, yet gaming history is littered with attempts. Made back in the day when “casual gaming” had many people worried it would change all of video gaming for the worse, a casual game of The Office was made, presumably looking to cash in on that sweet bubble before it burst.
Opting for a Diner Dash style of gameplay, the game featured creepy bobble-headed versions of the cast as well as soundbites and clips from the show. The goal was to give your Dunder Mifflin co-workers the specific color or type of file they wanted within a certain time. Chain enough successful request together and you’d fill a Prank-O-Meter at the bottom of the screen. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that the game was terrible and something even the most hardcore fan of The Office would struggle to play through.
3. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1995, Sega Genesis/Super NES/Atari Jaguar)
Bruce Lee is a cultural icon. So much so, you’d struggle to find any fighting game worth its salt that doesn’t have a Bruce Lee inspired character, like Mortal Kombat‘s Liu Kang, Street Fighter‘s Fei Long and the Law family in the Tekken series. There have been several officially licensed Bruce Lee titles, but none are stranger than Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was a 1993 semi-fictional biopic about the great man himself, making the tie-in video game possibly the one and only video game based on a biopic. As it’s unlikely that video game adaptations of Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything and Straight Outta Compton are in the works, it’s doubtful that honor will be taken away any time soon. Unsurprisingly, the player takes control of Bruce Lee and must fight through some of the film’s key moments such as when Lee has to fight some sailors as well as some Chinese chefs.
If that wasn’t weird enough, things take a turn for the metaphysical when the player uses up all three continues and must fight The Phantom, a personification of Lee’s fears dressed like a samurai, to continue.
2. Seven Samurai 20XX (2004, PlayStation 2)
Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is one of those films that movie bores will talk endlessly about at a party, even requesting the music to be turned down so people can hear their thoughts on the importance of the mise-en-scène. It’s entirely justified, however. Seven Samurai is still an incredible piece of work and probably one of the most influential films of all time. It’s been remade and re-imagined in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways over the decades.
Seven Samurai 20XX is an officially sanctioned video game adaptation of Kurosawa’s 1954 epic. The game takes place in the future where the magnificent seven must fight mutants, cyborgs, robots and monsters instead of simple bandits. As must be evident by now, the game takes huge liberties with the source material and updates the story to fit with its setting. The game did rather poorly, with critics claiming the game was a simple button masher and didn’t do enough to justify the name.
1. Fight Club (2004, Playstation 2/Xbox)
Talk about missing the point. David Fincher’s Fight Club tapped into the impotent rage of masculinity against the male place in society and was a stinging critique of consumerism to boot. Having a tie-in video game seems to go against every message the movie had to offer. Despite it being the worst idea ever, Fight Club the game was released in 2004.
It was a simple beat-em-up, pitting characters from the movie against each other. Like Reservoir Dogs, the makers could only secure one of the original cast, this time, Meat Loaf. The game earns a single gold star for cleverness by including Abraham Lincoln as a playable fighter, referencing a fantasy fight chat between Tyler and The Narrator in the film. However, that star is immediately and forcibly removed due to the fact that Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst was also included as an unlockable character.
Can you think of any other terrible video games based on movies? Let us know in the comments!